THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Globe Watch

Patches make for bumpy ride in Newton

Route 16 repairs not on calendar

Pavement patches on Washington Street (Route 16) near Commonwealth Avenue in Newton have created an uneven trip for motorists. Pavement patches on Washington Street (Route 16) near Commonwealth Avenue in Newton have created an uneven trip for motorists. (Christina Pazzanese for The Boston Globe)
By Christina Pazzanese
Globe Correspondent / May 23, 2011

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Reader Steven Higgs is a professional musician who does a lot of driving in and out of Boston to gigs. He asks why nothing has been done to improve a very heavily traveled section of Washington Street, also known as Route 16, in Newton.

“I live in Framingham and have noticed along a stretch of Route 16 (roughly between Route 128 and the Turnpike starting around Newton-Wellesley Hospital) that the condition of Route 16 is terrible,’’ Higgs wrote. “I noticed the black tar ‘strip’ of patchwork down the middle of the entire stretch in question — but not the entire sides of road that actually need it the most.’’

Like many drivers, a Globe reporter has often used Route 16 through Newton as a shortcut between the Mass. Pike and Route 128. A recent visit found the portion from Route 128 in Newton Lower Falls past the hospital in reasonably good shape. But the stretch between Commonwealth Avenue and Perkins Street, by the West Newton off ramp from the Mass. Pike, was particularly shabby for such a busy road. The concrete surface was scarred with strips of thick, fresh-looking tar patches on both sides and, in some spots, down the center.

Large, sloppy patches of tar left in lumps apparently to fill potholes only added to the uncomfortably bumpy ride. The nearly invisible yellow center line and lack of shoulder markings also suggest it’s been quite a long time since this section of Route 16 was repaired.

“For an apparently ‘affluent’ town in this region, it’s a shame and ironic the ‘main drag’ along this route isn’t properly maintained,’’ Higgs wrote. “Thanks, if you can bring light (and/or any explanation) to this condition that I’ve never seen rectified in several years now.’’

THE CITY RESPONDS
The Newton Public Works Department is responsible for maintaining Route 16 as it goes through town, said city spokesman Aaron Goldman. The fresh-looking asphalt is the result of a recent public works effort to fill in trenches in the road that had caved in. The trenches developed during previous underground utility and water main repair projects, he said. Unfortunately for drivers, repaving this portion of the road is not on the city’s immediate public works agenda, Goldman said in a follow-up e-mail. “This is much more expensive repair, which we hope to do soon, but is not currently scheduled for this year.’’

UPDATE
After GlobeWatch inquired earlier this month (May 9) about the strange odor that reader Jim Miranda often smelled outside the Genzyme plant in Allston, several others wrote in to say they too noticed a smell in the area.

Inspectors from the Department of Environmental Protection went to the plant on May 12. They could not detect any chemical odors from the plant, but they did notice another distinctive smell: natural gas leaking from nearby gas mains belonging to National Grid. Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Jim Ferson said the agency notified the company immediately.

David Graves, a National Grid spokesman, told GlobeWatch there are several leaks in gas pipes along Cambridge Street, by the Mass. Pike ramps at Genzyme and under the River Street bridge. Two were plugged right away. Repairs to the others have been slowed by wet weather, which has made excavation work tricky, by the volume of traffic in the area, and by an equipment shortage. Those repairs should be completed in a couple of weeks. Graves said the leaks are low level and present no danger.

Christina Pazzanese can be reached at cpazzanese@globe.com

WHO’S IN CHARGE
Stephen Tocci
Director of highway operations
Department of Public Works
Newton City Hall
1000 Commonwealth Ave.
Newton Centre, MA 02459
617-796-1000

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